Bubble, Schmuble

Congratulations, America. You now have more breweries than anytime in your history. We finished 2015 with 4,144 breweries (Brewpubs plus Local/Regional/National breweries).

Almost every day you’ll hear someone say we have too many breweries now. They’re wrong. And why does no one ever says we have too many restaurants? Openings of new restaurants are celebrated. It’s popular to forecast doom and gloom for craft beer, but I’m an optimist. Certainly, we’ll see breweries go out of business due to poor product or business skills, or both. But times have changed. The beer revolution is here for the long haul.

Does 4,144 sound like a lot? Not really. America had 4,131 breweries in 1873. Most were small breweries that served their city, or maybe just their neighborhood, just like today. Per capita, we are nowhere close to our pre-prohibition peak. The US population in 1873 was about 41.7 million, it’s about 319 million today. If the US had the same number of breweries per-capita that we had in 1873, there would be over 31,000.

Prohibition, consolidation, mass-industrialization changed the beer industry forever and American breweries withered to 80 in 1983. But times have changed, and only another massive cultural shift like Prohibition will stop it again. Consolidation is certainly going strong but small, local brewers are now interwoven into their towns and will do just fine.

Our hometown, Nashville, TN, now has over 20 breweries. If you’re in a Denver, Portland or San Diego, that may not impress you. But in March 2011 Nashville had one production brewery and three locally owned brewpubs. That growth is not too shabby in five years.

Bubble, schmuble. Here are three reasons good beer is here to stay:

  1. Food and drink culture has changed
  2. Local craft is a big deal (and not just craft beer)
  3. International sales are exploding

We’ll look at each of these more in depth over the next few weeks.

Until next time, always drink good beer. Cheers!

For further details, check out my sources: